Rare earth elements are necessary for the manufacture of green energy technologies, defense systems, glass, ceramics, catalysts, and lights. Rare earth element isotopes are also important byproducts of nuclear energy and produced for medical therapy. Many industries therefore require high accuracy techniques to measure rare earth element content within a myriad of different samples. Measuring rare earth elements can be very difficult, and often requires multi-step processes to extract and purify the rare earth elements from the bulk material. Existing processes suffer from high complexity and intensive labor requirements. This introduces potential issues associated with human error and contamination. Most importantly, these processes require long processing times, sometimes 12 hours or more, which lead to increased errors in quantification due to half-live losses when analyzing for short-lived isotopes. Better purification techniques are therefore required for advanced manufacturing, nuclear medicine research, and nuclear power industries.
CF Technologies, Inc. has developed a more rapid and more simple process to purify individual rare earth elements from a variety of feedstocks. This process uses inexpensive, off-the-shelf chemicals to purify elements much faster than conventional methods, resulting in substantial savings and better data. During this Phase I development (scheduled to take place July 2023 - July 2024) the process will be developed further for application to a wider range of rare earth elements. This process is expected to be particularly applicable to the nuclear industry, where speed is critical for analysis of short-lived isotopes. During Phase I, CF Technologies, Inc. will focus on separating a wide range of rare earth elements, including the heavy and light varieties, from each other at high purities, simulating real life mixed nuclear products.
Commercial application of this technology will result in faster and less expensive analysis across the nuclear industry, including waste management, medical isotope production, and researching nextgeneration fuels. After demonstrations on non-radioactive material, Phase II will involve purification of irradiated targets to demonstrate applicability to nuclear samples. Commercialization will involve licensing and equipment sales to the nuclear industry and to nuclear chemistry research laboratories.
Thank you to the USDOE for this opportunty! Check out the other Phase I awardees here and the CF Tech award summary!